The companions of the last Prophet, Hadhrat Muhammad (SallAllaahu Alaihe WaSallam), are called as his Sahaabah. They include Muhajireen (Migrants) from Makkah al Mukarramah and Ansar (Supporters & Helpers) from Madinah al Munawwarah beside other Muslims from various tribes who either saw Prophet (SallAllaahu Alaihe WaSallam) in the state of Iman or who were seen by Prophet (SallAllaahu Alaihe WaSallam) while they were in the state of Iman.
They occupy a special position among Muslim Ummah (Nation) as they learnt Islamic teachings directly from the Prophet (SallAllaahu Alaihe WaSallam). They were his first and direct disciples.In following lines, attempt is made to mention their virtues and the reasons thatdistinguish them from rest of the Muslim Ummah.
Belief in the good character and virtue of the Sahaabah is the belief of every Muslim and this makes Ahl al-Sunnah walJamaa’ah distinct than others. That is because Allah(Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) has praised them in His Book and they were also praised by the Prophet (SallAllaahu Alaihe WaSallam) as is narrated in the books of Sunnah. These texts reach the level of Mutawaatir (Continued narrations) in many cases, which clearly indicates that Allah(Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) gave them special virtues and noble characteristics, by means of which they attained that great honor and high status with Him. As Allah(Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) chose for His message the most pure-hearted of His slaves (i.e., the Prophets), so too He chose as the heirs of the Prophets those who would be grateful for this blessing and who were fit for this honor (of conveying the message), as He says (interpretation of the meaning):
ٱللَّهُ أَعۡلَمُ حَيۡثُ يَجۡعَلُ رِسَالَتَهُۥۗ
“Allah knows best with whom to place His Message” (Al-An’aam 6:124)
Ibn al-Qayyim said: Allah knows best where to place His Message, both with regard to theoriginal recipient and those who inherit it from him. He knows best who is fit to receive His Message and convey it to His slaves in a trustworthy and sincere manner, respecting the Sender and fulfilling his duties towards Him, patiently following His commands and showing gratitude for His blessings and drawing close to Him, and He knows who is not fit for that. Similarly, He knows best who among the nations is fit to be the heirs of His Messengers and to succeed them and convey the Message that they received from their Lord. (Tareeq al-Hijratayn, p. 171)
Allah(Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) says (interpretation of the meaning):
وَكَذَٰلِكَ فَتَنَّا بَعۡضَهُم بِبَعۡضٖ لِّيَقُولُوٓاْ أَهَٰٓؤُلَآءِ مَنَّ ٱللَّهُ عَلَيۡهِم مِّنۢ بَيۡنِنَآۗ أَلَيۡسَ ٱللَّهُ بِأَعۡلَمَ بِٱلشَّٰكِرِينَ (53)
“Thus We have tested some of them through others, so that they should say, .Are these the ones among all of us whom Allah has chosen for His favor? Yes, does Allah not know well who are the grateful?” (Al-An’aam 6:53)
Shaikh al-Sa’di said: Those who acknowledge the blessing and affirm it, and who do what it requires of righteous deeds, are the ones on whom Allah(Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) bestows His blessing, to the exclusion of those who are not grateful, for Allah(Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) is wise and He does not place His bounty with one who is not qualified to receive it.
Just as there are many verses and Ahaadeeth (Traditions) which speak of their virtue and high status, so too there are texts which state the reasons why they deserved this high status, such as the Aayah (Verse) in which Allah(Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) says (interpretation of the meaning):
مُّحَمَّدٌ رَّسُولُ ٱللَّهِۚ وَٱلَّذِينَ مَعَهُۥٓ أَشِدَّآءُ عَلَى ٱلۡكُفَّارِ رُحَمَآءُ بَيۡنَهُمۡۖ تَرَىٰهُمۡ رُكَّعٗا سُجَّدٗا يَبۡتَغُونَ فَضۡلٗا مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ وَرِضۡوَٰنٗاۖ سِيمَاهُمۡ فِي وُجُوهِهِم مِّنۡ أَثَرِ ٱلسُّجُودِۚ ذَٰلِكَ مَثَلُهُمۡ فِي ٱلتَّوۡرَىٰةِۚ وَمَثَلُهُمۡ فِي ٱلۡإِنجِيلِ كَزَرۡعٍ أَخۡرَجَ شَطَۡٔهُۥ فََٔازَرَهُۥ فَٱسۡتَغۡلَظَ فَٱسۡتَوَىٰ عَلَىٰ سُوقِهِۦ يُعۡجِبُ ٱلزُّرَّاعَ لِيَغِيظَ بِهِمُ ٱلۡكُفَّارَۗ وَعَدَ ٱللَّهُ ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ ٱلصَّٰلِحَٰتِ مِنۡهُم مَّغۡفِرَةٗ وَأَجۡرًا عَظِيمَۢا (29)
“Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, and those who are with him are hard on the disbelievers, compassionate among themselves; you will see them bowing down in Rukoo‘, prostrating themselves in Sajdah, seeking grace from Allah, and (His) good pleasure; their distinguishing feature is on their faces from the effect of Sajdah (prostration). This is their description in Torah; and their description in Injeel is: like a sown crop that brings forth its shoot, then makes it strong, then it grows thick and stands straight on its stem, looking good to the farmers, so that He may enrage the disbelievers through them. Allah has promised forgiveness and a huge reward to those of them who believe and do good deeds.” (Al-Fath 48:29)
Among the greatest reasons for the high status of the Sahaabah is that to which Allah(Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) bore witness of their purity of heart and sincere faith. That, by Allah, is a mighty testimony from the Lord of mankind, which no human being can attain after the cessation of the Revelation.
Listen to the words of Allah(Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) which may be interpretedas:
لَّقَدۡ رَضِيَ ٱللَّهُ عَنِ ٱلۡمُؤۡمِنِينَ إِذۡ يُبَايِعُونَكَ تَحۡتَ ٱلشَّجَرَةِ فَعَلِمَ مَا فِي قُلُوبِهِمۡ فَأَنزَلَ ٱلسَّكِينَةَ عَلَيۡهِمۡ وَأَثَٰبَهُمۡ فَتۡحٗا قَرِيبٗا ١٨
“Allah was pleased with the believers when they were pledging allegiance with you (by placing their hands in your hands) under the tree, and He knew what was in their hearts, so He sent down tranquility upon them, and rewarded them with a victory, near at hand.” (Al-Fath 48:18)
Ibn Katheer said: “He knew what was in their hearts” i.e., of sincerity and loyalty, and the willingness to hear and obey. End quote. (Tafseer al-Quraan al-‘Azeem 4/243)
How beautiful are the words of Hadhrat ‘Abdullah ibne Mas’ood: “Whoever among you wishes to follow (someone), let him follow one who has died, for the one who is still alive is not safe from fitnah. The Sahaabah of Muhammad (SallAllaahu Alaihe WaSallam) were the best of this Ummah, the most righteous of heart and the deepest in knowledge and the most straightforward, people whom Allah(Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) chose to accompany His Prophet and establish His religion. So acknowledge their virtue and follow in their footsteps, and adhere as much as you can to their morals and religion, for they were following right guidance.
It is narrated that Allah(Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) promised Jannah (Paradise) and eternal bliss to the Muhajireen and Ansar, and He stated that He is pleased with them in Aayaat (of Quraan) that will be recited until the Day of Resurrection. Can anyone think that this would be given to one who does not deserve that bounty? (Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr in al-Jaami’, no. 1810)
Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) says (interpretation of the meaning):
وَٱلسَّٰبِقُونَ ٱلۡأَوَّلُونَ مِنَ ٱلۡمُهَٰجِرِينَ وَٱلۡأَنصَارِ وَٱلَّذِينَ ٱتَّبَعُوهُم بِإِحۡسَٰنٖ رَّضِيَ ٱللَّهُ عَنۡهُمۡ وَرَضُواْ عَنۡهُ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُمۡ جَنَّٰتٖ تَجۡرِي تَحۡتَهَا ٱلۡأَنۡهَٰرُ خَٰلِدِينَ فِيهَآ أَبَدٗاۚ ذَٰلِكَ ٱلۡفَوۡزُ ٱلۡعَظِيمُ (100)
“As for the first and foremost of the Emigrants (Muhajireen) and the Supporters (Ansar) and those who followed them in goodness, Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Allah, and He has prepared for them gardens beneath which rivers flow, where they will live forever. That is the supreme achievement.” (Al-Taubah 9:100)
The best of the mankind, the foremost among the Messengers and Prophets, also testified to their virtue. He was a witness over them during his lifetime; he saw their sacrifices and their sincere resolve, and he spoke immortal words in the honor of his Sahaabah and his love for them.
It was narrated from Hadhrat Abu Hurairah that Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s Messenger (SallAllaahu Alaihe WaSallam) said: “Do not revile my Sahaabah, for by the One in Whose hand is my soul, if one of you were to spend the equivalent of (Mount) Uhud in gold, it would not amount to a Mudd of one of them, or half of that.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
It was narrated from Hadhrat ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood that the Prophet (SallAllaahu Alaihe WaSallam) said: “The best of the people are my generation, then those who come after them, then those who come after them.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
It is said: Even if there was nothing narrated from Allah(Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) or His Messenger (SallAllaahu Alaihe WaSallam) about them, the things that they did such as Hijrah (Migration), engaging in Jihad, supporting the Prophet (SallAllaahu Alaihe WaSallam) and Islam, spending their lives and their wealth, killing their fathers and sons (in Jihad), sincerely following the Deen, embracing Islam strongly and with certainty, is definitive proof of their good character and sincerity, and shows that they are superior to all those sincere people of good character who come after them, for all time. This is the view of all the Ulamaa (Scholars) and of the Fuqahaa (Jurists) whose opinion counts. (Al-Khateeb al-Baghdaadi in al-Kifaayah 49)
If we were to list the attitudes with which they supported the Deen (Religion of Islam) and the righteous deeds by means of which they deserved that high status, we would fill volumes. Their whole lives were spent for the sake of Allah(Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) and what book is big enough to contain the lives of hundreds of the Sahaabah who filled the world with goodness and righteousness?
Hadhrat Ibn Mas’ood said: Allah(Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) looked into the hearts of His slaves, and He saw that the heart of Muhammad (SallAllaahu Alaihe WaSallam) was the best of people’s hearts, so He chose him for Himself and sent him with His message. Then He looked into the hearts of His slaves after the heart of Muhammad (SallAllaahu Alaihe WaSallam), and He found that the hearts of his companions were the best of people’s hearts, so He made them the supporters of His Prophet (SallAllaahu Alaihe WaSallam), who fought for His religion. So whatever the Muslims think is good, is good before Allah, and whatever they think is bad, is bad before Allah. (Ahmad in al-Musnad 1/379)
It is also essential to understand that the Sahaabah were not infallible. This is the view of Ahl al-Sunnah walJamaa’ah. Rather they were human beings like any other.
Whatever sins or mistakes any of them may have made maybe overlooked in the honor of accompanying the Prophet (SallAllaahu Alaihe WaSallam) and they were forgiven and pardoned. Good deeds take away bad deeds. The support that the Sahaabah gave to the Prophet at any given moment for the sake of this religion cannot be matched.
Ibn Taymiyah said: Ahl al-Sunnah speak well of them, and pray for mercy and forgiveness for them, but they do not believe that anyone is infallible or that anyone is protected from making mistakes in their Ijtihaad except Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s Messenger (SallAllaahu Alaihe WaSallam); it is possible for anyone else to commit sins or make mistakes, but they are as Allah(Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) says (interpretation of the meaning):
أُوْلَٰٓئِكَ ٱلَّذِينَ نَتَقَبَّلُ عَنۡهُمۡ أَحۡسَنَ مَا عَمِلُواْ وَنَتَجَاوَزُ عَن سَئَِّاتِهِمۡ فِيٓ أَصۡحَٰبِ ٱلۡجَنَّةِۖ وَعۡدَ ٱلصِّدۡقِ ٱلَّذِي كَانُواْ يُوعَدُونَ (16)
“Such are the people from whom We accept the best of what they did, and overlook their evil deeds, (so as they will be) among the people of Paradise according to the true promise that was made to them.” (Al-Ahqaaf 46:16)
The virtue of any deed is to be judged by the results and consequences. (Majmoo’ al-Fataawaa, 4/434)
This is confirmed in the Quraan and Sunnah, at more than one place.
Allah(Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) forgave those of the Sahaabah who turned back on the day of Battle Uhud, as He says (interpretation of the meaning):
إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ تَوَلَّوۡاْ مِنكُمۡ يَوۡمَ ٱلۡتَقَى ٱلۡجَمۡعَانِ إِنَّمَا ٱسۡتَزَلَّهُمُ ٱلشَّيۡطَٰنُ بِبَعۡضِ مَا كَسَبُواْۖ وَلَقَدۡ عَفَا ٱللَّهُ عَنۡهُمۡۗ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ غَفُورٌ حَلِيمٌ (155)
“Surely, those of you who turned back on the day when the two troops faced each other, Satan had but made them slip for some of their deeds. Of course, Allah has forgiven them. Certainly, Allah is Most-Forgiving, Very-Forbearing.” (Aale ‘Imraan 3:155)
When one of the Sahaabah sinned by telling Quraysh that the Prophet (SallAllaahu Alaihe WaSallam) was coming with the army during the year of the Conquest of Makkah al Mukarramah, and ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab wanted to execute him, the Prophet (SallAllaahu Alaihe WaSallam) said: “He was present at Badr, and you do not know, perhaps Allah looked upon the people of Badr and said: ‘Do what you wish, for I have forgiven you.’” (Bukhari and Muslim)
And there are other cases in which some of the Sahaabah committed sins, then Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) pardoned them and forgave them, which is indicative of their virtue and honor and that cannot be undermined by any mistake that they made during the time of the Prophet (SallAllaahu Alaihe WaSallam) or after he departed from this world. The Aayaatquoted above, which speak of their virtue and give them the glad tidings of Jannah, cannot be abrogated by anything.